EJKs: Crunching the numbers | Inquirer Opinion
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EJKs: Crunching the numbers

This column’s subject, extrajudicial killings (EJKs), is due to two people: Sen. Dick Gordon and Fr. Irineo Tactac, OFM.

In a recent interview with Senator Gordon, chair of the Senate subcommittee investigating EJKs, he could not or would not answer the question of whether EJKs in the Philippines had increased under the Duterte administration. I did not pursue the matter.


Then, as fate would have it, my parish priest, Father Reu, requested that I talk to the seminarians at Our Lady of Angels Seminary late in November. Being an obedient Franciscan (or so I think), I acceded, thinking that the subject would be the Philippine economy, so no extra preparation was needed.

But when I received the invitation letter from Father Tac, I found that the subject was extrajudicial killings.


So I pursued the matter. I am sharing with you, Reader, the results of this pursuit (references will be supplied to those interested).

I. First, the definition of EJK. It is not defined in international law, and the closest we can get in Philippine law to a definition comes from a Supreme Court administrative order (25-2007) which one study has adopted: a killing due to the political affiliation of the victim; the method of attack; and involvement or acquiescence of state agents in the commission of the killings. (emphasis supplied)

In the United States, it is defined as a deliberate killing not authorized by a previous judgment pronounced by a regular constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people.

The definition I will adopt is as follows: the killing of a person by governmentalauthorities (or with their explicit or implicit approval or encouragement) without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process.

Related terms (synonyms): extralegal killing, political killing, and salvaging (Filipino English).

Exclusions: We are not including enforced disappearances, torture, extralegal arrests or incarcerations, or killings where the state or its agent is not a party.

II. Second, the underlying causes. This is taken from testimony given to a US Senate committee hearing in 2007. The root causes are: 1) weak political and social institutions (ho-hum), and 2) the legacy of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship.


What was that legacy? “Martial law politicized the institutions of government and violence against anyone perceived to be opposed to government policies was tolerated if not authorized.” Yet one more point against him.

III. Third, the death toll then and now. The real number of EJKs in the Philippines escapes exact determination, mostly because of differences in definition and data gaps.

This is what I have gathered:

President                     Period                     No. of Deaths        Average per Year

Marcos (dictatorship)         13 years                      3,257              250

C. Aquino                        1986-June 1988              556                   222

Arroyo                              10 years                        1,205                     120

B. Aquino                       July 2010-Sept 2015       294                       56

Total                               30 years 8 months             5,312                   173

I could find no data for the Ramos and Estrada years, or for the remaining Cory Aquino years. But what the table shows is that: a) over a period of 30 years and 8 months, 5,312 EJKs were recorded; and b) the number of EJKs declined significantly over time, from Marcos to Benigno Aquino III.

Compare this with EJK data since July 1, 2016, from President Duterte’s war on drugs:

Duterte                      5 months

police operations             1,959

others (victims of EJ or vigilante killings)        3,658


Based on those data, we can conclude that EJKs under five months of Mr. Duterte exceeds the combined total under his predecessors over almost 31 years.

Even if we limited ourselves to “police operations,” we can say that Mr. Duterte’s kill total in five months (1,959), exceeds by far the yearly averages of his predecessors.

Senator Gordon now has his answer. (To be continued)

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